Meet the lady of the manor: A signet ring with a new crest. Plans for her own racehorses. It's a long way from 'doors to manual' for Mrs Middleton
06:40 GMT, 3 July 2012
Being made of stern stuff, it is unlikely that Carole Middleton will be quaking in her LK Bennett stilettos at the prospect of sharing her new home with the ghost of a former resident.
Local legend has it that in the dead of night, the spectre of 18th-century beauty Frances Winchcombe — clothed in white — drives her carriage with four black horses and headless attendants from the grand manor house to the village of Bucklebury to avenge her cheating husband, Viscount Bolingbroke.
But one suspects that Carole, the incoming chatelaine of the 4.7 million Berkshire property, is not the type to pay too much heed to ghost stories about the historic mansion’s previous inhabitants.
Status symbols: Carole Middleton sporting her new signet ring at Ascot
In fact, Mrs Middleton seems to be approaching her elevation to lady of the manor with gusto.
I spoke to this week in the picturesque West Berkshire village offered a
wry smile at the mention of a regal-looking signet ring that Carole has
recently taken to wearing on the little finger of her right hand.
Locals say it bears an acorn design from
the coat of arms the Middletons have had specially commissioned in
their own honour. As future Queen, their daughter Kate is entitled to
her own crest, but her parents applied to the College of Arms last year
for a heraldic motif that the whole family can use.
Though some people might see this as a touch naff, it is a touching aristocratic affectation for a woman descended from penniless Durham miners who was brought up for a time in a condemned flat in Southall, Middlesex.
But, then, given how warmly Carole and husband Michael have been welcomed into the orbit of the Queen and Prince Philip, you can hardly blame her for acquiring what a friend described to me this week as ‘a few harmless airs and graces’.
Most royal in-laws find themselves sent to Siberia virtually as soon as the wedding cake has been cut — but not the Middletons.
The easy friendship that has been struck up between the two sets of in-laws was evident two weeks ago when, for the second year running, the couple were the Queen’s guests at Royal Ascot.
Lady of the Manor: The Middletons' new pile in Bucklebury, Berkshire
It was the second royal invite of the week for Kate’s parents, who travelled in an open-top carriage as part of the Royal Procession at the Berkshire racecourse.
A few days earlier, the Middletons — who attended a private lunch at Windsor Castle with the Queen, Prince Philip, the Princess Royal, plus Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie — were present at an Order of the Garter ceremony.
At Ascot, Carole, 55, felt sufficiently at ease to bray with laughter at one of Philip’s jokes as they watched racegoers from the royal box — even if such a raucous laugh was the sort of thing that would have raised eyebrows at Downton Abbey.
That said, former British Airways hostess Carole has clearly been working hard on ironing out any little social weaknesses she has shown since the start of Kate’s romance with Prince William (though she still kicks herself for being spotted chewing nicotine gum at William’s Sandhurst passing-out parade in 2006).
It is, perhaps, with that growing sense of confidence in her position that Carole has become increasingly inclined to flex her matriarchal muscles.
There is, I am told, disgruntlement in the Middleton household over the recently updated protocols, approved by the Queen, that re-jigged the royal pecking order so that Kate is expected to curtsey to ‘blood princesses’ Beatrice and Eugenie when William isn’t present.
Upwardly mobile: Carole Middleton shares a joke with The Duke of Edinburgh while watching the Queen present the prize for the Gold Cup
Stifled laughter: The Middletons have struck up an easy friendship with the Royals
The Middletons’ loyal friends in the Berkshire commuter belt — the couple’s new house into which they are about to move is a stone’s throw from their current 1.5 million home — will admit that Carole and Michael are ‘peeved’ at the development.
What a coincidence, then, that a blog posting on the online magazine for the Middletons’ 30 million party business last week included an excoriating diatribe about whether Kate should have to bend at the knee to Prince Andrew’s daughters.
The inflammatory article appears on the tackily titled ‘blogroll’ section of The Party Times, which is edited by Kate’s 28-year-old sister, Pippa, and acts as a publicity vehicle for Party Pieces, the firm Carole started in her kitchen 30 years ago.
Under the headline ‘Sister of woman with nice arse officially inferior to Beatrice and Eugenie’, the ill-judged piece includes a photograph of Pippa’s famous posterior at last year’s Royal Wedding.
Its author, former Lincolnshire teacher Tim Atkinson, who pens a regular blog for The Party Times, writes: ‘The Queen tells the Duchess of Cambridge to curtsey to the blood princesses (is there a ‘y’ [from the word blood] missing there)’
He continues in the same vein by mocking Prince Charles’s insistence on having his staff cook multiple boiled eggs for him in the morning so that no matter what time he arrives for breakfast, one will always be perfectly done.
‘When they insist on decapitating duplicate eggs to see which one’s been boiled to their liking, or making silly lists of who should bow to whom (and how low and how often) then it all goes a bit Monty
Python as far as I’m concerned,’ Atkinson offers.
Of course, such musings would hardly be worth a second glance were they not prominently displayed on the Middletons’ website.
Nor, astonishingly, is this the first time it has happened. Only last month, I revealed that Mr Atkinson, a house-husband, had published an entry on The Party Times page which not only mocked the Diamond Jubilee flotilla but questioned whether the monarchy can survive.
It is all the more surprising given that Carole, who is unquestionably the driving force behind the hugely successful business, is known among her 30-strong staff for keeping a beady eye on every aspect of the Party Pieces operation.
/07/03/article-2167905-0BCE2D3A00000578-416_634x440.jpg” width=”634″ height=”440″ alt=”Ambitious: Carole and Mike Middleton are said to be moving into a new state-of-the-art business site in Berkshire worth 3.25 million in order to expand their business” class=”blkBorder” />
Ambitious: Carole and Mike Middleton are said to be moving into a new state-of-the-art business site in Berkshire worth 3.25 million in order to expand their company
run-up to last month’s celebrations, they were selling such items as a
state carriage-shaped cardboard teapot vase, cups bearing the royal
coat of arms with the words ‘Long Live G&T’, and canape picks
featuring crown-wearing corgis.
Then there is the youngest of the
Middleton children, 25-year-old James’s business, operating from the
same Berkshire trading estate where Party Pieces is based, and which
sells adult-themed birthday cakes featuring some particularly ripe and
Yet the couple have a powerful ally in their son-in-law William.
The prince is extraordinarily close to Kate’s parents, and regularly refers to former BA flight dispatcher Mike as ‘Dad’.
Mrs Middleton regularly takes care of Lupo, William and Kate’s black
cocker spaniel puppy, who adores the Middletons’ own spaniel Ella.
William, who inherited 10 million on
his 30th birthday last month, is rumoured to have helped his in-laws
out with the deposit for the new house, which offers them greater
privacy and seclusion than their current five-bedroom home.
is even gossip in the local pub, the Bladebone Inn, that the couple —
who have not put their current house on the market — are actually buying
the house on behalf of William and Kate.
Certainly, friends say the grade
II-listed Georgian pile, which features a tennis court, swimming pool
and library and is set in 18 acres of stunning grounds, will be as much
a home for the young royals as for Kate’s parents. It is not the only
property purchase in the offing, either.
Ambitious Carole and Mike are said to be keen to expand their rapidly growing business further by moving into a new state-of-the-art business site in Berkshire worth 3.25 million.
In the meantime, neighbours say the Middletons are ‘beyond thrilled’ to have been so welcomed by the Queen and Prince Philip.
I am told that the Queen has introduced Carole — who has dreams of founding her own stables — to John Warren, her trusted bloodstock and racing adviser.
Warren, who is married to Lady Carolyn Herbert, daughter of the racing-mad Earl of Carnarvon, was also a guest of Her Majesty at Ascot two weeks ago.
Carole and 62-year-old Mike have a part-share in a horse called Sohraab, through Pangfield Racing syndicate, a group of eight friends who each own a share.
However, the eight-year-old, which is trained by Newbury-based Hughie Morrison, is nearing the end of his career.
How long, one wonders, before the driven and upwardly mobile Mrs Middleton is cheering on a mount wearing her own colours from the royal box